Daily Briefing: Yom Kippur: Day of Self-Reflection and Atonement (October 4, 2019)

Maurycy Gottlieb – Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur (Source: Wikipedia)

Table Of Contents:


Yom Kippur – How It Changes Us:  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, The Office of Rabbi Sacks, Oct. 10, 2016

#MeToo Should Include #SinToo:  David Bashevkin, WSJ, Oct.  3, 2019



Timeless Lessons From The October 1973 Arab-Israeli War:  David Wallsh, Modern War Institute, October 4, 2017

Yom Kippur ’73: Local Doctor Shares Stories and Photos From the Front Lines: Gabe Stutman, The Jewish News of Northern California, Oct. 3, 2019



Yom Kippur – How It Changes Us
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
The Office of Rabbi Sacks, Oct. 10, 2016

To those who fully open themselves to it, Yom Kippur is a life-transforming experience. It tells us that God, who created the universe in love and forgiveness, reaches out to us in love and forgiveness, asking us to love and forgive others. God never asked us not to make mistakes. All He asks is that we acknowledge our mistakes, learn from them, grow through them, and make amends where we can.

No religion has held such a high view of human possibility. The God who created us in His image, gave us freedom. We are not tainted by original sin, destined to fail, caught in the grip of an evil only divine grace can defeat. To the contrary we have within us the power to choose life. Together we have the power to change the world.

Nor are we, as some scientific materialists claim, mere concatenations of chemicals, a bundle of selfish genes blindly replicating themselves into the future. Our souls are more than our minds, our minds are more than our brains, and our brains are more than mere chemical impulses responding to stimuli. Human freedom – the freedom to choose to be better than we were – remains a mystery but it is not a mere given. Freedom is like a muscle and the more we exercise it, the stronger and healthier it becomes.

Judaism constantly asks us to exercise our freedom. To be a Jew is not to go with the flow, to be like everyone else, to follow the path of least resistance, to worship the conventional wisdom of the age. To the contrary, to be a Jew is to have the courage to live in a way that is not the way of everyone. Each time we eat, drink, pray or go to work, we are conscious of the demands our faith makes on us, to live God’s will and be one of His ambassadors to the world. Judaism always has been, perhaps always will be, counter-cultural.

In ages of collectivism, Jews emphasised the value of the individual. In ages of individualism, Jews built strong communities. When most of humanity was consigned to ignorance, Jews were highly literate. When others were building monuments and amphitheatres, Jews were building schools. In materialistic times they kept faith with the spiritual. In ages of poverty they practised tzedakah so that none would lack the essentials of a dignified life. The sages said that Abraham was called ha-ivri, “the Hebrew,” because all the world was on one side (ever echad) and Abraham on the other. To be a Jew is to swim against the current, challenging the idols of the age whatever the idol, whatever the age.

So, as our ancestors used to say, “’Zis schver zu zein a Yid,” It is not easy to be a Jew. But if Jews have contributed to the human heritage out of all proportion to our numbers, the explanation lies here. Those of whom great things are asked, become great – not because they are inherently better or more gifted than others but because they feel themselves challenged, summoned, to greatness.

Few religions have asked more of their followers. There are 613 commandments in the Torah. Jewish law applies to every aspect of our being, from the highest aspirations to the most prosaic details of quotidian life. Our library of sacred texts – Tanakh, Mishnah, Gemarra, Midrash, codes and commentaries – is so vast that no lifetime is long enough to master it. Theophrastus, a pupil of Aristotle, sought for a description that would explain to his fellow Greeks what Jews are. The answer he came up with was, “a nation of philosophers.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

#MeToo Should Include #SinToo
David Bashevkin
WSJ, Oct.  3, 2019

Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of repentance, takes place Oct. 8-9 this year, right around the second anniversary of the #MeToo movement. If #MeToo began as a reckoning and is reshaping American politics, media and entertainment, perhaps Yom Kippur is an appropriate time for some reflection.

Most Jews sit solemnly in synagogue on Yom Kippur and recount their sins. #MeToo prompted conversations about crime, abuse and corruption, but sin itself hardly gets mentioned. Many Jews find “sin” too Christian, and non-Jews often think it comes with too much religious baggage. But sin deserves a more important role in the conversation about our shortcomings.

In 1953 President Eisenhower, borrowing Lincoln’s words, urged Americans “to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow.” But the mention of “sin as a national failing,” as former White House assistant Frederick Fox put it, is now rare. Public talk about sin disappeared, replaced as America’s national preoccupation by the legal language of crime. “The policeman replaced the priest,” psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote in 1973.

What purpose would talking about sin serve? After all, faith isn’t universal, and the moral authority of many religious institutions has deteriorated through scandal. Meanwhile, legal advocates have implemented important protections for victims and stiff punishments for perpetrators of criminal activity.
Crimes, however, are necessarily rigid legal boundaries of liability and culpability. The Hebrew word for sin, chet, means missing a target. Talking about sin allows people to step away from the binary of legal innocence and guilt and consider the moral gradations of their behavior. That’s what some of the more ambiguous #MeToo cases were missing. Without the language of sin—of falling short—both harsh and lenient responses seemed inadequate.
We react to being accused of a crime by asserting our innocence, but when the source of our guilt is our internal moral compass, the only defense is the hard and messy work of introspection. Whereas crime begets punishment, sin begets repentance.

In 1999 Cornell law professor Stephen P. Garvey presented an ambitious model for a legal system that includes a process for repentance and atonement alongside punishment. Such a world, he suggested, does not require God. He admits that “my immediate aim is normative, not practical.” But there may be some practical applications of his concept. Even if the American justice system can’t be reinvented, at the very least there’s room to improve the public conversation.

America needs a Yom Kippur—a day to reflect on our guilt, however, defined, and take steps, however small, to make amends. Belief in God is helpful but not necessary for the country to establish a day when Americans can grapple with sin and restore others’ faith in them. Such a day may already exist, though few know it.

Eisenhower’s call for Americans to “confess their sins” came from his proclamation designating a National Day of Prayer. Eisenhower called it a “National Day of Penance and Prayer.” But like “sin,” over the years “penance” disappeared, too. Those words ought to be brought back.

“Women at Work: Changes in Sexual Harassment between September 2016 and September 2018”—a PLoS One journal article from May—found that the most egregious forms of sexual harassment decreased in 2018. Given heightened fear of the legal repercussions, this makes sense. Yet reports of more ambiguous “gender harassment” increased. How could a widespread reckoning with sin influence these numbers? … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]


Timeless Lessons From The October 1973 Arab-Israeli War
David Wallsh
Modern War Institute, October 4, 2017

This week marks the forty-fourth anniversary of the beginning of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Known as the Yom Kippur War in Israel and the Ramadan or October War in Egypt and Syria, the dramatic events of October 1973 profoundly altered the course of Middle East politics, eventually leading to the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and Cairo’s realignment away from the Soviet Union and toward the United States. Indeed, the 1973 war serves as a textbook case study in the use of military means for political ends, and provides still other lessons for modern warfare that remain as fundamental today as they were forty-four years ago. The occasion of this anniversary provides an opportunity to highlight some of these enduring lessons, as well as to apply them to America’s present national security challenges.

Historical Context: Crossing the Suez

On October 6, 1973, Egypt and Syria successfully launched coordinated surprise attacks against Israeli forces in the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights, respectively. The attacks were a direct reaction to Israel’s dramatic victory in June 1967, when in six days the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) executed a preemptive military campaign that resulted in the capture of the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan. The 1973 war was an attempt to reverse that humiliation and regain lost territory, and no moment would come to symbolize the post-1967 redemption of Arab national honor more than the Egyptian military’s daring and ingenious crossing of the Suez Canal.

At approximately 1405 hours on Saturday, October 6, just after Syrian MiGs began dropping bombs in the Golan, thousands of Egyptian forces in rubber dinghies crossed the Suez Canal under cover of air and artillery fire. Sophisticated new air defense systems neutralized Israel’s air force. Along the eastern bank of the canal stood Israel’s vaunted Bar-Lev Line, a sixty-foot high sand barrier defended by some sixteen outposts. The IDF calculated it would take the Egyptians at least twenty-four hours to blast breaches in the sand using explosives; the Egyptians sliced their way through using high-pressure water cannons in less than five. In the meantime, engineer battalions assembled pontoon bridges to transport heavy equipment over the water, while commandos equipped with cutting-edge, Soviet anti-tank weapons streamed into the desert to blunt Israel’s armored counterattack.

By October 7, Egypt had thrown over 100,000 troops and 1,000 tanks across the canal. Regardless of what happened next, the epic crossing of the Suez had restored Arab dignity and, as Sadat later wrote, “exploded forever the myth of an invincible Israel.”

How did this early battle lead to the transformation of the regional and even global balance of power? What can we learn from the war that ensued? Below I highlight three takeaways relevant for today’s national security practitioner.

Lesson 1: Begin with the Political End in Mind

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat played his hand almost perfectly. He had held a tenuous grip on power since succeeding the populist Gamal Abdul Nasser in 1970, and was especially vulnerable to popular frustration over his country’s “no-war, no-peace” stalemate with Israel over the Sinai Peninsula: the Egyptian military was not strong enough to retake it by force, but neither Israel nor the superpowers seemed in a hurry to negotiate a resolution. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]


Yom Kippur ’73: Local Doctor Shares Stories and Photos From the Front Lines
Gabe Stutman
The Jewish News of Northern California, Oct. 3, 2019

The Yom Kippur War in 1973 is considered an Israeli military victory. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t leave scars. Dr. Aitan Melamud, a retired urologist on the Peninsula, was 31 and living in Haifa when he was called up for service. Like most Israeli soldiers, it wasn’t his first time in a uniform — at age 18 he joined the air force, serving four years in a non-combat role and finishing as a lieutenant.

Melamud, now 77, sat at his kitchen table in Hillsborough recently with dozens of old photographs spread out in front of him. With the approach of the war’s 46th anniversary, he opened up about his time as a field doctor during the bloody three-week-long conflict, one of the most pivotal moments in Israeli history.

He was in his surgical residency at Rambam Hospital in Haifa when Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated surprise attack on Israel’s northern and southern fronts on the holiest day of the Jewish year. It was Oct. 6, 1973, and he had just finished six weeks of reserve duty in the Gaza Strip. Less than a week later, Israel was at war. It all came as a shock.  “I thought it was probably a computer error,” Melamud said about being called to battle. “I couldn’t believe it initially.”

But he didn’t have a choice.

Melamud volunteered to join a paratrooper unit headed for the Sinai Desert — the same unit he had served with in Gaza just weeks before. Unlike the close-cropped soldiers in the U.S. military, many of the Israelis in the field wore thick, dark sideburns and mustaches, and some had long, wild hair. “They were fighters,” he said.

Melamud flew in a military cargo plane from Tel Aviv to an airbase in the Sinai Desert, about 90 kilometers east of the Suez Canal. Israel was incurring heavy losses at the southern front. In the aggressive attack on Yom Kippur, the Egyptians crossed into the Israeli-controlled Sinai Peninsula and captured a number of military outposts. On the northern front, the Syrian army attacked the Golan Heights. As Melamud’s unit moved through the desert, “the mood was somber,” he said. “We knew we were exposed to attack all the time.”
The troops inched along in military vehicles, pausing frequently behind the Israeli forces commanded by Ariel Sharon who were fighting to gain control of the canal. Melamud’s unit traveled along what was code-named the Spider Route — a dirt thoroughfare leading to a strategic crossing near Bitter Lake. The troops were anxious. Enemy fighter jets were in the area. About a half-mile away, three soldiers were killed by missiles from Soviet-made MiG planes. “They didn’t attack the huge caravan, surprisingly, which was very fortunate,” he recalled. “Otherwise it could have killed all of us, easy. But that’s the way it was.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

For Further Reference:


Sacred Time Ep 3: Yom Kippur – The Nature of Man Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, YouTube, Sept. 17, 2018 — Rabbi Soloveichik explores Judaism’s “Day of Atonement,” the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Does the process of repentance, wherein we recall our many failings, year after year, mean that man is inherently bad or “fallen”?


Rabbi David Fohrman – Prophet on the Run: Yonah and Yom Kippur:  Rabbi David Fohrman, YouTube, Sept. 21, 2015 — In this class, Rabbi Fohrman raises two major questions on the book of Yonah: 1) Why does Yonah run? Doesn’t he know that running from God is futile, especially as he’s a prophet?


Yom Kippur 100 Years Or More Ago, In Words And Photos Lenny Ben David, Arutz Sheva, Oct. 2, 2019 — Next week Jews around the world will commemorate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  For many Jews in the Land of Israel over the centuries the day meant praying at the Western Wall, the remnant of King Herod’s retaining wall of the Temple complex destroyed in 70 AD.\

Draft of “Lu Yehi” (All We Pray For) Naomi Shemer, 1973:  The National Library of Israel — This is a draft of Naomi Shemer’s song “Lu Yehi” which was written in 1973. The idea for the song originated before the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, when Naomi Shemer wanted to adapt the Beatles’ song “Let it Be” into Hebrew. She wrote the lyrics during the first days of the war, expressing hope and prayers that the soldiers would come home in peace.


This week’s French-language briefing is titled:


  Communique: Récapitulatif de l’année 5779 – 04 Octobre, 2019

CIJR wishes our friends and supporters Shabbat Shalom and a happy and healthy New Year!